Georgia delayed its primary elections again Thursday, this time to June 9, amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak may continue to pose a high risk to public health through most of May.
Georgia was originally supposed to hold its primaries on March 24. But state officials postponed the contests until May 19 as the pandemic worsened and health officials urged the public to avoid large crowds and gatherings.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Thursday that Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) decision to extend a state of emergency through May 13 meant that the primaries would have to be delayed even further because of the impact it would have on early in-person voting.
“This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials, and poll workers,” Raffensperger said in a statement.
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So far, 16 states, including Georgia, have either postponed their primaries or switched to vote-by-mail amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and the role in-person voting could play in spreading the disease.
Those concerns came into play this week as voters in Wisconsin went to the polls to vote in the state’s presidential primaries and regularly scheduled elections, despite unsuccessful efforts by Gov. Tony Evers (D) to postpone voting.
Most of the states that have postponed nominating contests pushed their primaries back to June. West Virginia is also expected to hold its primaries on June 9 after calling off its previously scheduled May 12 contests.
Raffensperger acknowledged that, even with the latest primary delay, there would still be public health challenges. But he insisted that the primaries would still have to move forward.
“I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances,” he said.